sumac onions

IMG_0161

One more from the previous post, since I make these all of the time and they’re great as both a condiment and in lieu of salad dressing.

Simple Sumac Onions
from Zahav

1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tb red wine vinegar
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Throw into a bowl, adjust for taste. 😉

The cookbook ingredients say to serve immediately and they’re great like that, but I find them to be even better the next day, once a little fermentation has kicked in — the onions are milder and have expressed more juice, making a bit of a sauce.

 

Israeli food for lent

IMG_0291

Most of what was served at a recent (Greek Orthodox) Lenten/vegan dinner party. A few items were purchased, but the rest came out of the Zahav cookbook, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Also a visit to the restaurant in Philly, which was spectacular.

From left: Fennel/kohlrabi/green apple salad with zhug, eggplant/onion spread (purchased), pickles, beet and tehina salad, taramosalata (which is not vegan, but is pareve and lenten), chopped salad, pickled onions with sumac, hummus, and then roasted squash with zucchini tehina sauce and walnuts.

IMG_0287

This is a spin on the fennel salad from Zahav, with kohlrabi added because I was intrigued by a kohlrabi salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, plus green apple for sweetness. Zhug is not for everyone because it has a kick, but I thought it worked really well.

Whatever else you take out of the Zahav cookbook, the tehina sauce will probably be the most useful. Michael Solomonov’s brilliant notion of letting the garlic mellow by marinating in the lemon juice is transformative. It has a wider applicability than just tehina sauce — it got used in a chole masala recipe yesterday — but it will certainly do wonders for your hummus if you make it Israeli-style.

 

Zahav’s basic tehina sauce:

1 head garlic
3/4 c lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1.5-3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups tehina
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
1-1.5 cups cold water

(1) Break up the garlic, but don’t bother peeling. Blitz it, the lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp of salt in a blender until you get a paste. Then let it sit for at least ten minutes.

(2) Strain the garlic-lemon mixture into a bowl, then add tehina and cumin and 1 tsp salt.

(3) Using a whisk, immersion blender, or your tool of choice, mix until smooth, adding water to keep the tehina from seizing up and to get the desired consistency. It will get lighter in color as you go and your desired end state is luscious and smooth. Adjust for salt and cumin to taste.

IMG_0265

Zahav’s hummus, or The Reason You’ll Never Buy It At the Supermarket Again

Zahav’s hummus (or Dizengoff’s hummus, which is the same thing) is more or less tehina sauce, chickpeas, and a little more cumin. It’s insanely easy even if you use dried beans and is endlessly customizable.

Zahav‘s beet salad is well-known and fantastic. I don’t bother salt-baking the beets; I peel and salt them generously before roasting and shredding. Mix with tehina sauce, dill, mint, and lemon juice and you’re pretty much good to go.

The zucchini recipe in the book comes with anchovies, feta, and hazelnuts, but two of the three aren’t vegan and I have walnuts, so that’s how it got made. I’ve done it with the anchovies and it’s not overly fishy, so skipping them didn’t hurt too badly. Roast some extra squash to blitz with tehina sauce

 

cucumber and poppy seed salad

IMG_3400

As happens every year in early August, people prove their love and affection to me by buying me stuff. *cough*

One of my presents was Ottolenghi: the cookbook, the first collection by the fellows behind one of London’s hippest restaurants. I know, I know, English food! My time in England and Wales was coated in mayonnaise and memorable for the utter dearth of fresh ingredients anywhere – did everyone just eat takeaway from M&S? – but apparently they have gotten better about it in the last dozen years.

Ottolenghi’s team has put together a lovely cookbook, full of gorgeous photographs and Middle Eastern-influenced recipes. It’s also a cookbook without an American edition, so it requires some fluency with both the metric system (or a good cheat sheet) and English cooking argot and ingredients.

The first recipe I tried out of the book was a case in point. In translation:

Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad
(adapted from Ottolenghi)

1 pound Persian/Israeli or kirby cucumbers (4-6 depending on size), sliced into manageable spears
2 mild red chilis… or 1 small Serrano chili, thinly sliced
3 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp superfine sugar (powdered is acceptable, but ideally just dump your table sugar into the blender/grinder)
spare 1/2 cup nice neutral oil
spare 1/4 cup white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together, preferably with your fingers so you can make sure the spears are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

notes: (1) The recipe asks for caster sugar, which we call “superfine” and tend not to stock in the house unless you barkeep. Powdered will work in a pinch, but you can just make superfine sugar by putting granulated sugar in the blender or food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Don’t use table sugar; it won’t dissolve easily. (2) I used the amount of oil and vinegar required, which is what’s listed above, but it’s too much. There’s a lake at the bottom of the bowl. My suggestion is to halve the amounts – at least – or, better yet, just do the oil and vinegar to taste as you do the salt and pepper.

IMG_3396

My homemade caster sugar and the photo from the book, so you can see what it’s supposed to look like.

IMG_3402

A little color’s not a bad idea, so I used part of a plum that I had lying around.

All in all, not a bad debut for the cookbook. I look forward to more adventures with it.

mung bean and corn salad

IMG_3326

This is my current favorite summer salad. I’ve made it twice in a matter of weeks. It’s simple, it’s tasty, it’s filling, and it requires nothing more involved than a pot of boiling water (that you don’t need to be near) as far as cooking in a hot kitchen.

And it’s even better the day after you make it. Which is why it makes spiffy lunches, as you can see above.

I am pretty sure my entire history with mung beans involves bean sprouts, including the ones I nurtured myself in a glass with a damp paper towel inside the dining room side cabinet in elementary school. Considering how easy and quick they are to prepare as food and not science, I sort of wondered why that was – we had separate bins dedicated to varieties of beans and peas – until I mentioned this salad to my father, who proceeded to inform me that he didn’t care for mung beans.

(I think he might like this salad anyway, but I’m not going to push.)

Mung beans are cheap and easy to find and if you’re not sure where you fall on the love/hate mung bean spectrum, you can find them in the bulk bins at Whole Foods where you can buy just a little and check ‘em out.

Mung bean and corn salad

3/4 cup dried mung beans, cooked
2 large or 3 medium/small ears corn, kernels removed (about 2 cups)
1 small red onion or 2 shallots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Throw everything together, stir, taste, and serve, basically. Warm or cold.

Notes: (1) Mung beans are extremely easy to cook. They’re small and don’t really need pre-soaking if you don’t have that kind of time or foresight; they’ll be done in well under an hour if you just stick them in a pot and boil them in water. (2) I parboiled my corn in the microwave, but if your ears are sweet and not too starchy, use them raw. (3) I used onion the first time and shallots the second and think both work equally well. Do not be tempted to add more onion or garlic if it doesn’t seem to be a strong presence right out of the gate. It will be one the following day. (4) If your corn is not very sweet, I’d add a touch of a sweetish commercial salad dressing (a raspberry vinaigrette, for instance). Don’t overdo that, either.

IMG_3337

I find cutting the corn ears in half to be of some help when it comes to stripping them – the kernels tend to scatter less. I still am no kind of neat about it, though.

IMG_3341

This picture is entirely so you can see my brand-new, spiffy metal colander. I love this colander on its own merits, not just because it meant I could retire the red plastic one of doom.

IMG_3342

Basil from my plant.

IMG_3313

jícama salad

IMG_3161

So along with the fresh garbanzo beans, I picked up a couple of jicama, which I’d eaten before several times but hadn’t ever bought for myself. And then, of course, the next step was to figure out what to do with it.

I look at and save a ton of recipes, from food blogs, from magazines, from cookbooks. But it always seems like whenever I get something without a prior plan, I have trouble coming up with that plan after the fact.

(This is a tale of an impulse purchase gone right, by the way.)

I used the first one in a regular salad and to nibble on with cheese; this is what I did with the second one.

 

Jícama, Orange, and Cilantro Salad
(adapted from Gourmet)

4 navel oranges, peel, pith, and membranes cut away and sections cut free 
1 medium-large jícama (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into a chunky dice
1/2 small red onion, medium diced
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup toasted cashews, chopped

Combine all ingredients save for nuts and adjust for taste; top with nuts before serving. The salad is good the first day but improves overnight.

It may seem like an odd combination, but all of the ingredients complement each other well, sweet and sharp and juicy and crunchy – it’s definitely something I’ll make again.

The recipe as written called for lemon juice and pine nuts, but I didn’t have the latter and I thought lime juice went better. Feel free to revert back to the original, but I like the changes.

 

IMG_3151

My jícama, which was looking a little perkier before it sat in my fridge for a while.

IMG_3152

Oranges. The best way to clean up oranges for a salad is to supreme them, which I generally don’t bother doing because it always feels like you’re wasting half of the orange. You’re not – ninety percent of what you get rid of isn’t the good part and, if you’re me, you’re reclaiming that other ten percent after prep.

Supreming an orange is simple: chop off the top and bottom so that you can see flesh, then cut away the sides so that you not only get rid of the pith, you cleave off the outer membrane as well:

IMG_3154 From there, you can easily remove each section from the membranous core with v-cuts.

IMG_3157 It’s more wasteful and, at least until you get used to it, more time consuming than just peeling and slicing an orange, but the difference in presentation makes it worthwhile. 

IMG_3158

This, by the way, is not a small red onion. It is a medium onion and half of it is Too Much. Just for the record.

 

IMG_3166

The salad, the next day, over some lettuce and accompanied by a cheese omelet.

summer salad

IMG_3085

“You’ve been slacking on the blog,” I was chastised this past weekend. “I am,” I agreed, “but I have been eating a lot of salad and I can’t take pictures of that.”

But, really, I can. And so I did.

This weekend brought the first promise of what is to come – a sultry summer in the city. Sure, we’d had that freakish 90-degree day last month, but that’s what it was – freakish. When the temperature and the humidity level are about the same and it’s May, it’s not freakish. It’s a harbinger.

Today wasn’t as miserable as yesterday or the weekend, but a cold supper seemed like a good idea anyway.

IMG_3051

Our starting point. This is a 4.5 quart bowl, I think. I’ve long since gotten rid of the packaging. But it’s the largest bowl I own that I can reasonably fit in the fridge and isn’t currently being used as a fruit bowl.

IMG_3054

One medium head of red-leaf lettuce. I happen to really like iceberg – which lost a bit of its bad reputation after Saveur ran a feature on it last year – but it’s been very expensive and very pitiful of late. So foo-foo lettuce it is. I like red-leaf lettuce; it’s buttery and soft but still has decently crunchy ribs.

IMG_3057

Throw in three small head of broccoli. These were peeled, microwaved, then shocked in a bowl full of ice and water and left until cool. Hence the pretty color. Raw broccoli is fine, too – I certainly nibble enough of it while prepping – but I like it cooked better. Mind you, I barely cook my broccoli and it still has snap.

IMG_3058

Throw in a couple of kirby cukes…

IMG_3060

… a few carrots…

IMG_3063

… and some celery, all traditional salad ingredients.

IMG_3065

I’ve been adding apple to my salads for decades. Fruit in general makes a good addition – dried or fresh. Cranberries, orange, pears, plums, grapes, raisins, and berries all work. It’s a good flavor and texture complement, looks nice, and it’s a great way to get rid of fruit (especially apples) not awesome enough to eat plain and not quite far gone enough to cook. This empire apple is perfectly fine, by the way.

IMG_3066

Leftover vegetables are awesome in salads, like these golden beets. Which are, in addition, very pretty. I love beets, but they take so long to make in the oven. I should figure out how to make them in the microwave, or if that’s possible.

IMG_3076

The white cube-ish bits are jicama and ricotta salata, which is a great salad cheese and one of the only ones I’m comfortable putting in the salad proper and not adding on top later as I would with, say, feta or asiago, which tend to get very sad sitting in a bowl with vegetables that are mostly water.

IMG_3077

Side view. Don’t worry; it’ll be gone by the weekend.

IMG_3086

Dinner! The green’s on the top because of the first-in/last-out principle.

Of course, this pile of nutrients is all well and good, but a couple of bits of cheese does not a complete meal make. Adding protein to salads is easy.

Beans: Canned or dried beans are great in salads. I had cranberry beans in the fridge (more on those when I get around to posting about the tagine I made yesterday), but I didn’t put them in. I may do it later, but I wanted a bean-free meal after several in a row.

Eggs: An omelet on the side is fine, but my usual methods are to top a salad either with some scrambled eggs or with a sunny-side-up egg and let the yolk serve as dressing.

Meat: yes. 🙂

Nuts: Always a tasty contribution to a salad. I don’t add them until the last minute because they’ll get soft sitting in the bowl overnight.

Fish: tinned or fresh. What I went with tonight, namely some of the leftover baked halibut.

IMG_3088

MIA

Sometimes, there’s just nothing to blog about.

salad

One can only take so many pictures of salads.

leek_chicken_farfalle

And sometimes, dinner is remarkably unphotogenic. (I did not braise the farfalle with the chicken and leeks, although I suppose I could have tried.)

salmon_dinner

And sometimes, even when it’s not so terribly ugly, I forget until it’s too late.

basa_dinner

Which I seem to do a lot as far as fish days go.

I’ve been trying to be better about buying (and eating) fish more regularly. My current plan is one fish purchase a week, which is either one or two meals depending on the amount and type of fish. This is half of the basa (dredged in flour and izbar and thrown on the hot pan).

capncrunch

And, finally, sometimes it’s perhaps best not to share what was for dinner.